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The art of bad movies - 30 years of 'Troll 2'


For every creative outlet, there is a spectrum of quality. In the music industry, at one end is the high art of Dolly Parton’s Jolene, and at the other is Axel F’s ‘Crazy Frog’ ringtone. Similarly, for the many fans of waxworks across the world, Madame Tussauds might represent the highest level of quality, whilst Louis Tussauds House of Wax in Great Yarmouth might represent the very worst. 

The very same concept stands for cinema, with masterpieces of tension and storytelling, such as Speilberg’s Jaws at one end and its cash-snapping descendant Jaws: The Revenge, an eternally sinking ship, at the other. Though there is a very particular nuance in this spectrum of quality, the same can be said for the other aforementioned creative platforms. Whilst Louis Tussauds House of Wax may possess some of the most stomach-churning members of the uncanny valley in the waxwork world, they’re so bad that they actually begin to create their own meaning. They subvert the spectrum of quality, and become, in and of themselves, unique and interesting.

Crucially, a truly bad piece of art or film has to have had the original intention of being good, losing its way during production. Anyone can make a bad, unwatchable film, but to make something so bad, it’s good, strangely takes some degree of care and passion. It’s a very delicate essence, that films such as Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin and Claudio Fragasso’s Troll 2 have managed to capture.

For all its titular promise, Troll 2 in all its 95-minute runtime, fails to feature even one mythical troll, pint-sized or towering. One thing it does have though is goblins—and goblins in abundance. In fact, reverse the name of the creatures entirely and you’ll get the convenient name of the fictional town ‘nilbog’ where the Waits family find themselves on vacation, and slowly discover that their holiday getaway may actually be a nightmare…

“Joshua is not a little shit, he’s just really sensitive” 

Joshua’s mother remarks as he is carried up to his room after pissing on the hospitable dinner left by the homeowners. A request from the ghost of his grandfather who had visited him just moments before.“You can’t piss on hospitality, I won’t allow it,” she adds.

His father cries before he tightens his belt to prevent hunger pains and slams the door behind him. It’s a furious flurry of intoxicating imagery that perfectly bottles the film’s insanity, existing in a strange otherworld just over the ridge from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks

Leap-by-leap, as Joshua comes into contact with a strange herbalist witch as well as the possessed townspeople, the family find themselves in a battle to escape Nilbog. Along the way, Troll 2 dabbles with some truly dreamy imagery, including a strangely sexual scene where the witch materialises through a TV screen and proceeds to make out with a young man placing a piece of corn between their two mouths. With the help of the films detached, fanciful dialogue, a bizarre, unexplainable atmosphere is created, making it somewhat of a beautiful disaster. 

So obscure, it seems as though director Claudio Fragasso is trying to say something here, attempting to access the stubborn doors of our subconscious mind, and in the behind the scenes documentary, this meaning may have been found. Speaking in the documentary, screenwriter Rossella Drudi comments: “I came up with a story about [goblins] who were vegetarians because at that point in my life, I had many friends who’d become vegetarians and it pissed me off.”

Titled Best Worst Movie, the documentary explores the making of the film itself, interviewing key crew and cast members, before going into the legacy of the film and the politics of bad cultural taste. When viewed as a complement to the film itself, the two films work perfectly as a double-feature, and as an interesting case study into cult filmmaking. The joy of viewing Troll 2 is in the sincerity behind the camera. This isn’t coming from a cynical movie company looking to exploit fans of horror sub-culture, there is real love and care that radiates from the film itself.  

Whether or not the finished film remains a comment on the screenwriter’s dislike of his friends’ vegetarianism, it will forever be a champion of other-worldly kitsch. A film rampant with goblins, green sludge and the unsettled spirit of a lovingly dressed-grandfather.